Teaching the Process of Writing

The dilemma

One big problem with education is the inconsistencies from teacher to teacher. Teachers follow the “standards,” but there is a gray area between each standard and each year. Also, teachers perceive and teach things in different ways.

Perceiving the writing process

For example, many teachers tell students to follow the writing process, but they do not emphasize that each step in the process has equal value. Too many teachers emphasize the final draft more than any other draft. Nancie Atwell, the author of In the Middle, writes that what you do not include in your final draft is just as important as what you do include.

The Final Draft

By the time a writer gets to the final draft, it should be final, or as close as the writer can get to a final. At the end of the process, the student has cut and pasted, conferred with the teacher and fellow students, edited, proofread and run the paper through Grammarly so many times that it should be his or her best work.

Why do teachers get papers that are far from the student’s best work?

Teachers need to carve out the time for their students to think of an idea, write the first draft, the second draft, (however, many it takes) confer, revise, edit, and proofread. If the teacher does not provide students the time required to process a piece of writing, then she will continue red-marking those “final” drafts until the end of time. And the student will keep making the same mistakes over and over again.

Cultivate

If teachers develop the skill of using the writing process from the time their students start writing until they graduate, the process will be second nature to students. Every year students need to learn that cultivating writing is a process that takes time.

Erase the inconsistencies

Teachers who teach writing are, or absolutely should be, writers. Any writer knows that writing is a complex and non-linear process. Writers know this because they consistently practice the writing process. This practice eventually leads to something close to perfection. To emphasize the value of each step of the writing process, teachers must allow students the time to follow it diligently. Only then can we expect them to churn out quality writing.

Explore and evaluate your writing process

Almost all good writing begins with terrible first efforts. You need to start somewhere. Start by getting something—anything—down on paper. A friend of mine says that the first draft is the down draft—you just get it down. The second draft is the up draft—you fix it up. You try to say what you have to say more accurately. And the third draft is the dental draft, where you check every tooth, to see if it’s loose or cramped or decayed, or even, God help us, healthy. – Anne Lamott

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